The various landscapes of Bulgaria from the deep Black Sea to the highest mountain tops are home to one of Europe’s richest nature and wildlife habitats. Many national parks and nature reserves provide shelter for endangered species and a chance to meet them.
Bulgaria’s complex climate is favourable to tourism with continental and Mediterranean influences. The winter consists of ample snowfalls with the mountains covered in snow making it ideal for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding. The summer months are mostly hot and dry and usually exceed 30+ Celsius. Most people then head to the Black sea coast but the real freshness lies under the deep forest shades in the mountains where temperatures never reach extremities even in the hottest days.
Bulgaria’s natural landscape consists of mountains, deep river valleys and plateaus. The Balkan mountain range which is also known as Stara Planina meaning “Old Mountain” geographically stretches from the eastern part of Serbia to the west coast of Bulgaria on the black sea. The mountain can be divided into three regions; the eastern, central and western with the Danube River flowing in the north and the Aegean Sea in the south. There are several natural waterfalls which can mostly be seen in the central and western parts as well as the widest river which crosses the Balkan Mountains known as Iskar; there has formed the magnificent Iskar gorge.
The Rhodope Mountains located in the south are the largest, attracting many tourists during the spring and summer months. The Rhodopes are particularly notable for their rich cultural heritage, caves, deep river gorges, picturesque villages and an abundance of birds of prey which reside in the many nature reserves established in the region. The Rhodopes are also home to natural mineral springs with the most famous being in Velingrad and Devin.
The highest mountain peak is Musala at 2925m high located in the south-western part of Bulgaria in the Rila Mountain. The name Rila is thought to be of Thracian origin meaning “well watered mountain” due to its many natural springs and glacier lakes. However it is most famous for the Rila monastery which is the largest in the country founded in the 10th century making it an important cultural landmark.
After Rila, the Pirin mountain range is the second highest with its highest peak known as Vihren being 2915m. The northern part of the mountain is the most visited part which accounts for 74% of the whole mountain. Pirin is known for its Alpine appearance and 176 mountain lakes which are so crystal clear they were named the eyes of the mountain in traditional Bulgarian folklore, making them extremely popular among tourists.
Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria lies on a mountain plateau surrounded by five mountains the highest of which is Vitosha – a long ago extinct volcano. With its height above 2000 m and the close proximity to Sofia it is a preferred destination for tourism all year around.
Flora and Fauna
The wildlife is abundant in Bulgaria with 2 UNESCO natural heritage sites and many established nature reserves providing a home to wolves, bears, birds of prey and reptiles. Bulgaria has remarkable bio-diversity with unspoiled vegetation with some plants found nowhere else in the world, such as the Bulgarian Blackberry, Rila Primrose and the Rhodopean Tulip. Lush forests are full with fruit such as blueberries, strawberries, mushrooms and herbs making it a unique rich composition of flora and fauna. The number of protected plants is 63 and the animal species – 419. The air and water resources of the country are some of the purest in Europe.